A meandering on spanking

At the risk of opening a Pandora’s box, I want to chat about spanking. Or not spanking.

This post is not about whether spanking is good or bad, I’m long over judging people for their parenting decisions or trying to force my opinion down anyone’s throat.

This post is also not about war stories of the hidings I got as a child and the miniature cricket bat a teacher used to smack our open hands with in St 5. (that would be Gr 7 for the younger folk reading this). Or my extreme fear of my Mother’s big wooden brush that could sometimes be wielded indiscriminately. (I hesitate to say deservedly so as I was a master at driving my Mom up the walls)

This post is about what replaced spanking, because, lets face it, in giving up spanking as a method of discipline something else has had to take it’s place. Yes?

What are we left with?

1. Threat of spanking

Yes. Most of us has done this, whether we intend on following through or not. “Pick up XYZ OR there will be trouble”. Which is fine, but WHAT trouble? I’ve always been of the opinion that, if you’re going to make a threat, you best be willing to follow through, especially as a parent.

2. Manipulation

“Father Christmas is watching”, “Granny won’t come visit if you don’t stop doing XYZ immediately”, “we won’t go to the movies if you don’t stop teasing your sisters”. Useful, but only up to a certain point. After that they will simply shrug and give you the middle finger.

3. Withholding of treats/privileges

We end up using this quite often. Bad behaviour = no device/TV. Once again, useful, but I wonder if it drives the right behaviour and it certainly will not work forever.*

4. Time Outs

This works fine with smaller children, but I suspect our 8 yo is getting a little old for this. I also suspect that he drove us to putting him on time-out the other day just so he could have a break from his loud twin sisters. I was tempted to join him, to be honest. Peace and quiet bliss in the bathroom.

5. Positive reinforcement

Whether it’s pocket money, star charts or any other carrot that is dangled. Not something that has worked for our lot so far and, quite frankly, it’s far too much admin for me to get my head around. When Daniel was potty training we tried it and, besides the fact that he actually just didn’t give shit about getting stickers and then a toy, when you’re juggling life and not with him the WHOLE day it’s a little hard to keep up.

6. Shouting/Hurtful words

I was in Ackermans the other day, on the first day of school holidays, when a lady (I’m assuming it was the Mom) was swearing at a child at the till. “Jy maak my mal, jy gaan maak dat ek in die fokken malhuis opeindig en dis nog net die begin van die vakansie” she said to the toddler. Everyone in her vicinity cringed, hopefully herself included.

That, coupled with a link posted yesterday by the lovely Shannon about spanking, prompted this post.

Look. I’m a shouter. I hate that powerless feeling of repeatedly being ignored by the children when I make (what seems like) a reasonable request. What I, however, will NOT do is belittle our children or allow anyone else to do so. What I have realised this year is that words are often much more harmful than actual violence.

Daniel was being bullied at school. With words. This is almost impossible to prove, because, you know, no bruises. We had a hard time initially convincing the school that there was, in fact, bullying going on. Gone are the days where boys came home with bruises and cuts and the bully could be sorted out. We teach our children to use their words and to express their emotions, but whilst we are doing this some parents are victimising and belittling their children with words, rendering our work futile. Whether those kids are being spanked or worse at home I wouldn’t know, but it did make me think about the power of the words we use, especially with our children.

Yes, we get angry. No, we aren’t perfect.

BUT. Surely discipline should be constructive and meant to guide. Surely we should pick the battles that are worth fighting and not sweat the rest.

I hope this makes sense and that I’m not sounding all judgy and preachy. We are all just doing the best we can, but sometimes, just sometimes, you need to ask yourself: is this really worth getting upset about or are you just being a stubborn asshole? (I often find myself falling under “stubborn asshole”)

So anyway,sermon over. Be kind and mind your words, your children go out in the world a treat others the way they are treated at home.

* incidentally, we recently banned electronic devices during the week, not to punish our children, but because we quite like having an actual conversation with them and they *wait for it* actually end up playing games that they’ve made up. WIN.